The Republican leaders of the Indiana General Assembly said Monday they won’t control the fate of the proposed marriage amendment but will leave the decision about how to proceed on the controversial measure up to their GOP members.
Still, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long said they’re seeking a civil discussion – one without name calling and judgments.
“I don’t think one person – one judge, one university president or one person in a boardroom” should decide how the proposal is handled, said Bosma, R-Indianapolis, during a panel discussion at an Indiana Chamber of Commerce event.
“It needs to be made by elected representatives,” Bosma said. “This is a tough one, but we’ll decide together. We’ll decide it collaboratively.”
Long said no one has taken “the vote” among his members to determine how the group wants to proceed on the amendment, which would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The proposal would also ban same-sex civil unions.
“I am not going to try to dictate what’s going to happen on this issue,” he told a couple hundred business officials.
The legislative leaders’ comments were the first on the marriage issue in months. Earlier this year, Bosma and Long postponed votes on the proposed amendment because the U.S. Supreme
Court was considering another state’s marriage laws. The leaders said then that they planned votes in 2014 and expected the measure to pass.
But public opinion on the issue has been shifting – and so have the views of some lawmakers. A growing coalition of businesses and organizations including Eli Lilly & Co. and the Indy Chamber are also pressuring lawmakers not to vote on the proposal.
On Monday, Freedom Indiana joined with Interfaith Coalition on Non-Discrimination to deliver a letter to lawmakers opposing the proposed amendment. The letter was signed by more than 300 faith leaders across the state.
“We are Indiana clergy, leaders of faith communities, and other religious professionals,” the letter reads. “Our backgrounds and those of the people we serve vary widely. Our views on marriage differ. But we speak with one voice to oppose amending the Indiana Constitution to define marriage.”
The General Assembly has already approved the amendment once. But it must two consecutive, separately-elected legislatures to be put on the ballot for possible ratification for voters. If the proposal is not approved in 2014 or if it’s amended the amendment process would start over.
At Monday’s panel, GOP legislative leaders stressed that despite the timing, the proposed amendment won’t be the most important thing on the session’s agenda. Bosma said workforce and education issues will top his caucus’ list of goals.
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, agreed but had a different take.
“It is not the most important issue we will be facing,” Lanane said. “But it is the most divisive.”
Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.